June 12, 2023


Devotion for the Week...

My parents live in Nova Scotia, where a couple of wildfires burned out of control at the beginning of this month. Mom and Dad were just outside the evacuation zone for one of the fires, so I followed the news until fire officials declared the fire was no longer expected to grow or move. During a news briefing, one fire official talked about the randomness of fire, how it can burn one home to the ground, but skip over the one next door. He explained that the wind carries embers, throwing them ahead of the fire, where they can ignite any fuel they find.

His description of how fire moves made me think of James, writing about the danger inherent in the human tongue: "But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself" (James 3:5-6). 

When we first read that, it sounds unnecessarily harsh, doesn't it? Think about it for a minute, though, and it's easy to see the truth of James' assessment. We've all been burned by someone's words, and unfortunately, we've all burned others with our words, too. It's so easy to say things without thinking that will hurt another person's feelings, or even to say something that will stick in their mind for years and impact how they define themselves. 

Earlier in his letter, James wrote, "If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless" (James 1:26). When he said 'if you claim to be religious,' he was referring to how we present ourselves to others, and how we want to be seen. Some people do all the right religious things, like going to church, praying, and reading the Bible, but they never actually let the Holy Spirit have an impact on how they think and talk. Speaking of people in the last days, Paul wrote to Timothy, "They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly" (2 Timothy 3:5). It's the same thing James means. If we're doing all the religious things, but it's not impacting how we talk, then we're just pretending; the faith we profess has never been deep enough to impact our hearts.
If we're doing all the religious things, but it's not impacting how we talk, then we're just pretending | DevotedQuilter.com
The difference between 'religious' and 'godly' isn't so much about the tongue as it is about the heart...but it is revealed in what comes out of our mouths. Jesus Himself said, "What you say flows from what is in your heart" (Luke 6:45). It would be wise to ask ourselves, what do our words say about the state of our hearts? Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to put a check on our words, to stop us before we say something hurtful? Are we listening closely enough to even notice (or care) when He prods us to keep a thought to ourselves?

Controlling our tongue is an ongoing task, but a worthy one. If we allow the Holy Spirit to be the filter on our mouths, holding in those hurtful words we might otherwise let fly like embers on the wind, we could avoid setting fire to people's feelings, or their self-esteem, or to our entire relationship with them.


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